Garibaldi Park Whistler A to Z: Mt James TurnerNeal Carter (14 Dec 1902 - 15 Mar 1978) was an early explorer of the Coast Mountains around what would eventually be called Whistler Valley.  In the summer of 1923 he and UBC classmate Charles Townsend set off from Rainbow Lodge and climbed the previously unclimbed Wedge Mountain.  From the summit of Wedge they spotted an impressive mountain to the north in the midst of a maze of glaciers.  They named it Mount James Turner and managed its first ascent as well. 

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In the following days they made a foray up into Avalanche Pass (Singing Pass today) and climbed Red Mountain(The Fissile today) and across to the summit of Overlord Mountain.  The following day they named and made the first ascent of Mount Diavolo.  The first ascent of Overlord had only been made in the previous June when the Don and Phyl Munday ventured into the area on Carter’s recommendation.  The Mundy’s had also arranged to meet Carter and make an attempt on Wedge Mountain on that trip; however Carter was delayed by work and the Mundy’s made a first ascent of Blackcomb instead.  Neal Carter was a skilled cartographer, surveyor and photographer at a time when photography, particularly difficult alpine photography was rare.  Carter gave copies of the beautiful photos to his hosts at the Rainbow Lodge, and now, almost a century later, they reside in the Whistler Museum.  Charles Townsend documented the exploration and, along with Carter’s photos have ensured this interesting two weeks of early twentieth century mountaineering will be permanently remembered.  Neal Carter was born in Vancouver on December 14th 1902 he began climbing and exploring local mountains at just 14.  Three years later he was a member of the BC Mountaineering Club and making regular climbs with one of BC most prominent mountaineers, Tom Fyles.  Over the years his mountaineering passion took him around the world with climbs in Europe, Japan and New Zealand.  Though he made several notable climbs in the Rockies, his main focus lay in exploring the Coast Mountains.  His exploration contributed to the creation of the first topographical maps of Garibaldi Park, and of the Tantalus Range in the 1920's.  In the 1930's he explored peaks at the head of the Lillooet and Toba Rivers, and was a member of a team attempting a first ascent of Mt. Waddington. In the early 1940's he surveyed the Seven Sisters Range near Smithers, and was the first to climb the highest peak, Mt. Weeskinisht. He remained an active climber in the 1950's with two important first ascents: Mt. Monmouth and Mt. Gilbert.

He attended UBC and McGill Universities and earned a PhD in Organic Chemistry and later worked as a marine biologist in fisheries research.  While his contributions to climbing and surveying are not widely known, he is considered a person of significance within the broader mountaineering community.  Mount Neal in Garibaldi Park, which he also played a key part in lobbying to expand its borders to their current size, has been named for him.  Carter was made an honorary member of the Alpine Club in 1974, and for his mapping work, he was named a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  In March, 1978 he died while swimming in Barbados, at the age of 75.

Winram, Dalgleish, Fyles and Carter 1932

Charles Townsend's Account of the First Ascent of Wedge Mountain September 1923.

Mr. Neal Carter and I had been planning all the summer to make the first ascent of Wedge Mountain as soon as we could get away in the fall.  Accordingly, on Saturday evening September 8th, 1923 we landed with our belongings at Rainbow Lodge, our headquarters for the ensuing fortnight. The next morning, we left half our grub at the lodge, and with the rest of our belongings started out from Alta Lake.  We followed the railway for 4 miles, travelled east along logging roads, then picked our way through the trees for another half mile until we finally reached Wedge Creek.  The creek was much larger than we had expected and we were lucky in finding a log on which to cross.  On the creeks east side, the hill rises sharply for about 800 feet.  As the bush was thick, we were very glad to have a rest when we reached the top.

From there on the ridge is a series of thickly wooded bluffs.  It was along this ridge that we caught our first glimpse of Wedge Mountain since the valley floor.  Continuing upwards at about 5,000 feet elevation the trees began thinning out and giving place to open meadows.  We were nearly all in when we finally found water near 6pm, at the extreme limits of the timberline and we made camp as quickly as possible.  We were now in an ideal place for an attempt on Wedge Mountain and settled in for the night.  Early the next morning we continued up the ridge however it soon came to an end and we found quite a gap in between us in the base of the mountain.  We had to descend this gap and cross a number of ridges composed of masses of loose rocks, probably moraines at one time and then we crossed a small glacier before we got onto the climbable slopes of Wedge Mountain.  We named this small glacier the Eclipse Glacier as shortly later we had a good view of a partial eclipse of the Sun.  From there to the peak another 2,000 vertical feet we travelled over unstable talus slopes, the rocks being on average cubes of about two feet in thickness.  The summit of the mountain is a long ridge ending in quite a sharp peak at the eastern end.  It is very precipitous on three sides.  We reach the summit at 1:15pm.

Owing to the clearness of the atmosphere we had a magnificent view and were able to secure some fine photographs. Immediately to the south of us was the Spearhead Range, which at this time remains practically unexplored.  We were most impressed by it seven fine glaciers along its north side and the range’s potential for future mountaineering excursions was immediately apparent.  To the east of us lay a peak which we resolved should be the object of our next climb.  It lay across a valley from Wedge Mountain, and promised to be an enjoyable three-day trip.  We thus returned to our previous camp and prepared for our next objective.  The next day taking with us just enough food for three days and our bedding, leaving our tent behind.  We hiked around the southern slopes of Wedge keeping just above the timberline to avoid the bush.  To obtain water we had to drop down about 800 feet into the valley where we found a delightful camping spot.   We lulled ourselves to sleep under the stars that night with soothing strains from the camp orchestra.

First Ascent of Mount James Turner

The first part of our climb the next day brought us over four high ridges to an elevation of about 7,000 feet.  From there we had a good view of Mount James Turner as Neil had named in memory of the Vancouver Reverend.  Once across the quarry glacier we had to cross the Turner Glacier much larger than the former.  We were now at the foot of the cliffs at the base of the peak.  With some trouble owing to the extreme looseness of the rocks we climbed the cliffs to the east of the peak.  From here we were ready for the final climb.  The peak itself is a mass of jagged rock most of which is very loose and dangerous and I doubt whether it could be climbed from any other direction.  An hour’s rock climbing took us to the summit arriving at 1:30pm.  Once again, we had a magnificent view.  On three sides the cliffs were very precipitous, while even the face up which we had come looked very steep from above.  Still we descended and reach camp again at about 6pm.  The next day we packed back to our first camp and the day following down to Alta Lake.  The latter journey taking six hours.  At Rainbow Lodge we had an excellent supper which partially made up for a week of dried goods."

Townsend on Wedge, Carter on James Turner


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